fragments of Tuah
A poetic and speculative video essay, investigation into the figure of Hang Tuah,
a legendary warrior who may or may not have existed in the 15th century,
during the maritime Melaka Sultanate.
The story is set in Malaysia. The main characters are ‘Hang Tuah’, a legendary warrior, and the narrator, ‘I’, a musician living in Kuala Lumpur. Mark Teh’s team of leading contemporary Malaysian artists search for traces of the ‘hero’ who has been passed down for hundreds of years. They follow traces found in books, museums, movies, streets, graveyards, and even the real ‘evidence’ said to be found in Okinawa.
The scattered stories of Hang Tuah across various places and times – which have been woven into the fabric and lives of people in Malaysia for 600 years – are re-edited to draw out the questions of ‘I’ who lives in Malaysia today.
“ . . . So I look for him everywhere.
And he is everywhere because I am looking for him.
But I look for vulnerability.
. . . I look for those that have been lost.
I look for Hang Tuah.
I am looking for humanity.
I am looking for his humanity. ”
It has been seven years since one of Mark Teh’s masterpieces, “Baling” – centred on the failed peace talks to end the war in Malaya in 1955, and a significant moment in the global Cold War – was staged across ten cities around the world.
This time, Mark and collaborators Faiqsyazwan Kuhiri, Syamsul Azhar, and Wong Tay Sy have a new focus: Hang Tuah, a figure who is familiar to all who grow up in Malaysia.
In 2018, Mark co-curated the exhibition “The Breathing of Maps” at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, and after conducting research around Japan, Mark became interested in the islands of Okinawa.
After that, Mark did research in the Ryukyu Islands as “Collaborative Research: Re-Reading History from the South” with Yudai Kamisato and started the creation. The idea for this film began when he learned that a ‘keris’ was excavated in Okinawa, which was claimed to be evidence of the existence of the legendary Malaysian ‘hero’ Hang Tuah.
‘Hang Tuah’ continues to live on in various forms across Malaysia – in the names of streets and shopping centres, in textbooks and movies. How does Tuah’s existence, or lack thereof, shape Malay and Malaysian culture, identity and imagination?
Did Tuah really exist? Or is he a work of fiction?
This latest work teases out the figure and mystery of ‘the hero’ through various fragments.
The video released at THEATRE for ALL and vimeo on March 24, 2022!
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Who is "Hang Tuah"?
Questions and controversy remain around the historical existence of Hang Tuah.
He is a figure said to have been ‘active’ in the 15th century, during the golden age of the Malacca kingdom, and who is still important as a national icon in Malaysia.
Hang Tuah is commonly represented as a warrior with a strong sense of loyalty to the Sultan (king), a diplomat who visited many countries around the world as a laksamana (admiral) of Malacca, and a legendary figure closely related to the history and politics of Malaysia.
“Collaborative Research: Re-Reading the History from the South”
The Collaborative Reserach project by Yudai Kamisato, a director and a playwright, and Mark Teh, a director/researcher/curator who has been researching Malaysia’s political history for a long time.
After a presentation at the Jejak-旅 Tabi Exchange program held in Yogyakarta Indonesia in July 2018, Kamisato and Teh launched a project of research collaboration applying completely different research methods.
In 2019, they relocated the ‘edge of the border’ to a central position, and conducted research on the themes of central versus periphery and dominator versus dominated.
From December 2019 to February 2020, they did research of distilled spirits in the Ryukyu Islands.
Afterwards, they continued a dialogue gently in Thailand, the “Jejak-旅 Tabi Exchange 2020” program, etc., and they each conceived and began creating new works.
From July to December 2020, Kamisato presented a new works of audio, text, and video as the “KHAO KHAO CLUB ONLINE” series.
This work “fragments of Tuah” is also a work of “Collaborative Research: Re-Reading the History from the South”
Through the first year of research, the second year of the project in 2020, Kamisato released “KHAO KHAO CLUB ON LINE” consisting of “KHAO KHAO CLUB .mp3”, “KHAO KHAO CLUB .pdf” and “KHAO KHAO CLUB .mp4”.
In this final year of the project, Teh present this work, “fragments of Tuah”.
Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri
Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri is a Digital Producer at BFM, an independent broadcast media organisation in Malaysia. He is also a frequent performer in Five Arts Centre’s projects, where he has appeared in Something I Wrote, 2-minute solos – art meets politics, Baling, Version 2020, A Notional History, and Oppy & Professor Communitas, as well as dance artist Lee Ren Xin’s B.E.D. series. Faiq creates his own original music with the band Terrer.
Mark Teh is a performance maker, researcher, and curator based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His diverse, collaborative projects take on documentary, speculative and generative forms, and address the entanglements of history, memory and counter-mapping. His practice is situated primarily in performance, but also operates via exhibitions, education, social interventions, curating and writing. Mark graduated with an MA in Art and Politics from Goldsmiths, University of London, and he is a member of Five Arts Centre.
Syamsul Azhar works across theatre, film, and contemporary art as a multimedia and lighting designer, often employing technology as a performative element in his work. He has designed across diverse places and spaces, and collaborated on many projects with Five Arts Centre. Syamsul is a member of sans, a loose interdisciplinary collective of artists creating works for performance and exhibition. He is a graduate in Film and Digital Media from Deakin University, Australia.
Wong Tay Sy
Wong Tay Sy has been actively involved in the fields of contemporary art, theatre, and film production since 1999. Working with different arts collectives, organisations, and production houses, she has extensive experience as an award-winning production designer, curator, producer, and facilitator. In her work and projects, Tay Sy believes in the process of collective creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration, and she is particularly interested in the intersections between the arts and our social environments. She is a visual arts graduate from Central St. Martins, London.
Created by Faiq Syazwan Kuhiri, Mark Teh, Syamsul Azhar & Wong Tay Sy
Camera (Okinawa): Yudai Kamisato, Yumiko Torii
English-Japanese Translation: Kanoko Tamura, Yuki Harukawa (Art Translators Collective)
Barrier free Japanese Subtitle Supervision: NPO Theatre Accessibility network
Barrier free Japanese Video: Kei Uchida
Research Collaborator (2019): Yudai Kamisato
Executive Producer: Akane Nakamura
Producer: Tamiko Ouki, Megumi Mizuno
Coordinator: Miki Nozaki
Project Manager: Hitomi Sato, Kumi Hiraoka
Planning and Production Management: precog co., LTD.
Presented by P
(for “Collaborative Research: Re-Reading the History from the South”)
Japan Arts Fund
In cooperation with
Okinawa Prefectural Archaeological Center
Jejak-旅 Tabi Exchange
CONTACT ABOUT THE WORK
precog co., LTD.